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Zimbabwe's historic anthrax epizootic: new analysis

A paper has been published here and, while in draft form, discussed at length here, which reanalyzes the features of Zimbabwe's anthrax epizootic, which began in 1978 and slowly tailed off after 1980.

The authors include an MD and geography specialists from the University of Nevada, Reno.  The first author, James M. Wilson, MD, has founded a center to investigate and forecast epidemics.  From his bio:
Director, Nevada State Infectious Disease Forecast Station @ the University of Nevada-Reno.This is the first operational infectious disease forecast station in the United States that operates at the state level. 
The group has done a great job collecting information about weather (temperature, rainfall), soils, outbreak locations, possible means of spread, and number of animals and humans affected, as well as the evolving spread of the epidemic over time.  The group has done a great job pulling together the detail needed and creating maps and tables which detail how the epidemic evolved chronologically.

They have, as I did, put to rest a number of theories as to the nature of the epidemic, and confirmed the the "hops" anthrax made could not be explained by natural occurrences, such as climate and rainfall conditions.  The authors confirm that anthrax cases extended to the borders of Zimbabwe, but remained confined within the legal boundaries of Zimbabwe. Adjoining countries experienced no similar epizootic.

The authors agree that the vast majority of human cases were associated with exposure to anthrax-contaminated animals, hides or meat.

Of interest, a number of anonymous commenters were extremely critical of Wilson's paper as it was in progress.  Their arguments were mostly specious, and I could knock each down if I had to,  What was interesting was the attack on Wilson, 38 years since the beginning of the epizootic, to deny it could have been due to biological warfare.  When of course there is no other logical explanation.

Wilson reported that I had been living in Zimbabwe at the time of the epizootic.  Actually, I was living in the US.  I travelled to Zimbabwe to study the epizootic in 1992, and did a poster presentation on the epizootic in Nairobi at the International Society for Infectious Diseases in July 1992, making the argument that the epizootic could only be explained as an act of biological warfare.  Margarete Isaakson, a South African infectious disease scientist with likely connections to Project Coast, and an interest in Ebola, screamed at me in Nairobi for daring to present such rubbish.

Nothing has changed.  Biowarfare is terrible, identifying it is controversial, and developing the scientific tools that allow one to definitively identify when an act of offensive biowarefare has been used, shifts the balance power from the perpetrators to the investigators and to those who were attacked.  That seems a very fair power shift, but it isn't to everyone's likeing.

The attacks, mostly spurious, Wilson has received for his paper tell us there are still many people who would keep the whole subject under wraps.  Wilson has put to rest the nonsensical paper published by LLAN in 2015.

Just remember, despite a 2010 paper by Fasanella et al that flys can carry anthrax, (and several similar earlier papers going back 30 years) the problem is their failure to transmit enough spores or viable vegetative forms to cause illness in the vast majority of livestock, which need roughly about one million spores to achieve an infectious dose.

I am pleased this subject is getting the attention it deserves.  I wonder why it is getting it now?

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